Dr. Anthony Fauci, the public face of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic response, will be grilled on the origins of the virus and how to manage future mass outbreaks during back-to-back marathon meetings with lawmakers.
The longtime former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is sitting down for a closed-door interview with the House select committee on COVID-19 Monday and Tuesday, with both sessions expected to last at least seven hours.
“This is after-action review, lessons learned. What did we do right, what did we do wrong? Why were decisions made? You know, let’s face it, COVID was challenging from the standpoint that we didn’t know how to treat it. We didn’t know where it came from. We were learning what it was doing to people,” Committee Chair Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, told Fox News Digital in an interview.
“Dr. Fauci clearly was the scientific face of COVID during the pandemic and spokesperson under both administrations. … He might stay here in Washington, but we’re going home to our constituents, who want answers to a lot of things.”
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Dr. Anthony Fauci is going before the House select committee on COVID-19 this week. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)
Wenstrup, a physician of over 30 years, said he was interested in hearing insights that could potentially help his committee eventually offer bipartisan recommendations on how to handle the next pandemic.
He’s also planning to demand answers on pandemic political decisions, including vaccine mandates, which Wenstrup called “egregious.”
“It’s like a politician saying, ‘You must get this vaccine or you’re fired from your job.’ And, you know, where’s the doctor? People want to have a conversation with their doctor. ‘Am I at risk? Why am I at risk? Why should I get the vaccine? What are the side effects of the vaccine?’” he explained.
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Chairman Brad Wenstrup spoke with Fox News Digital about what he wants to learn from Fauci. (Getty Images)
The Ohio Republican also suggested he’d ask Fauci about the controversy over whether COVID originated naturally or was formed in a Wuhan, China lab.
“When people had a differing view of whether this came from nature and thought it came from a lab, why were they ignored?” he asked. “You saw people being called crackpots and conspiracy theorists.
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“We have people saying, ‘Forget about the origins, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just move on.’ … You’ve got to be prepared. Just as you want to see if something may emerge from nature, which is a lot of the work that they were doing with gain of function. … I can understand that. But, at the same time, you know, the technology is there to create a virus, and where are they doing it? In Wuhan. So why are we ignoring that?”
Wenstrup’s committee has been investigating whether government officials at the time, including Fauci, worked to suppress questions about whether the pandemic was the result of a lab leak in Wuhan. Republicans accused those officials of pushing the natural origin theory in a bid to protect China.
Part of his questioning will deal with the origins of COVID-19. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)
Fauci became a politically polarizing figure during the pandemic. He was vilified by those opposed to lockdowns, masking rules and vaccine mandates, while being idolized by those who agreed with the government’s actions.
On the Senate side, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has been Fauci’s biggest nemesis, and has called the doctor a “liar” about the origins of COVID. Paul recently highlighted an email from February 2020 in which Fauci detailed a call that included Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, and other “highly credible” scientists who raised suspicions that the virus was created in a lab.
“The suspicion was heightened by the fact that scientists in Wuhan University are known to have been working on gain-of-function experiments to determine the molecular mechanisms associated with bat viruses adapting to human infection, and the outbreak originated in Wuhan,” Fauci wrote, according to a screenshot of the newly unredacted email shared by RealClearPolitics White House reporter Philip Wegmann.
Publicly, Fauci was insisting that the virus could not have originated in the Chinese laboratory, where U.S.-funded experiments took place.
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Wenstrup said the interview would be more of a “roundtable” with lawmakers on both sides posing questions. He also expressed hope the committee’s final recommendations could be bipartisan.
“At the end of the day, we want to just reveal what worked and what didn’t work and what we might do better in the future,” Wenstrup said. “I come from a military background. It’s always fair to say there were lessons learned.”